A perspective on user requirements for eliminating complexity and the all-important context of use? Let’s run with that….
I’ve been out testing the new Apple AirPods to see how good they are for my favourite user profile: runners. Now, I’ve previously addressed the pain of all those wires and cables that seems to be accepted as part of a mobile user experience these days, so I have been really looking forward to this evaluation.
I’ve had my Apple AirPods for about two months now, and I’ve run about 600 km in them in India, Croatia, and Ireland. I’ve been out in very hot weather and in drizzle. The longest single run was about 30 km.
In short, I agree that the Apple AirPods are the best non-isolating wireless earbud solution for the Apple iPhone. But, they’re also a really great user experience for runners on daytime runs and for indoor treadmill work for those who like music with their activity.
Context of Use
Firstly, the sound quality is excellent, really amazing, and much better than the iconic white Apple EarPods. The set up process and the onboarding to instant use is a cinch; the best Bluetooth connection procedure I have yet to come across. It’s a great example of how Apple does user experience right, before you even use the product for real!
My Apple AirPods have stood up well (touch wood) to all that sweat and drizzle that is part of my running life. I realize that these kind of conditions are not the optimum usage scenario, perhaps, and there risks involved with moisture, but this is my typical running context of use.
I wear a bandana or buff when I run, so the limitations of my non-Apple designed ears and a less than snug fit of the Apple AirPods is minimized. Your mileage may vary but I have not had one drop out while running.
The Apple AirPods music can be controlled by Apple Siri on your Apple iPhone by way of a double-tap, but really that is quite limited in terms of available audio options (and I always have music when I run). However, teamed up with the controls for music offered by the Apple Watch’s Music app, the user experience is a major winner!
I also liked that when you remove the Apple AirPods from your ears they pause the music until you put them back into your ears when they pick up again where they left off. A useful feature for urban runners when stopping to cross busy roads, engage with others, and so on.
Apple AirPods and Apple Watch Music app. A great, integrated user experience on your wrist.
Now the big question: did the things stay in my ears while I was running? So far, yes! But then I always run with a bandana or buff on which affords extra security in that regard.
The Apple AirPods suffer from the same fit limitation discovered by many who didn’t have their ears personally designed by Apple, so your mileage can vary on comfort and snugness of fit as mine did (sometimes I have to leave them sticking out a bit to get a snugger fit which is a bit of a risk I agree).
The angle of the dangle. I get a snugger fit with my Apple AirPods sticking out a bit when I get a bit sweaty. Doesn’t look the best and maybe makes them more prone to catching in something and being pulled out. Your mileage may vary with the fit.
I have to say I am also quite nervous about running with my Apple AirPods without music playing in my ears to let me know they are both still there (I have forgotten they are in at times, and when changing shirts later knocked them flying, for example). I don’t think I would use them at night (in case I dropped one) – in fact I haven’t!
However, on balance, the experience of running without those messy wires combined with that sound quality and Apple Watch controls means I can really enjoy running with them in most circumstances, and I’d recommend you try it.
There’s a Price to be Paid…
On the downside, the Apple AirPods price is very steep (about 180 EUR in Ireland) for something you might lose, and the battery life isn’t long enough for me. I might run twice a day, and despite the 24 hour battery life claim, my Apple AirPods don’t last that long. An audio alert tells you when the power is too low. The little case the AirPods come with helps keep them charged when not in your ears, so you need to bring that with you, and top them up using the lightning connection. I’ve lost Bluetooth connectivity only a few times and you’ll need the case to reset the connection too.
Conclusion: They’re a Runner!
In all, Apple AirPods are a great solution for good weather, daytime and treadmill runners of all musical tastes and distances, especially if you wear a headband!
So, go for it!